My Mum’s Famous Chocolate Birthday Cake

cakeThere is nothing better than an age old recipe that has been tested time and time again. A birthday cake is one of those recipes, especially one that has been passed down from generation to generation. The recipe I’m sharing today is one that was passed to my mother from her mother (my grandmother) and I can only assume given to my grandmother from my great grandmother. I suggest this because I come from a strong line of exceptional bakers, at-home-chefs and entertainers.

For me, this cake is rich with memory. Dense with feeling and sweetened like silk that ties my past with my future. It’s a recipe that I make for my children three times a year – for each of their birthdays. As I make this cake, I’m transported back to my childhood as I become captivated by the memories of baking with my mother. Learning to count by mixing the batter, moments in the sun while we licked the bowl clean.

How can a cake bring back so much? As I pour it into the pan, I can almost hear my mother’s voice reminding me of the importance of food and how the preparation is so imperative. Recipes like this aren’t to be rushed; they are to be created with love. I swear you can taste the love and attention that is put into this cake.

So, if you are in need of a recipe that can travel through time. One that will bring your children back for more and one that will always remind them of home – then this is the cake. A cake with purpose made with love.

Note: This is not sugar-free, nor is it calorie cautious. This cake is an all-out indulgence that should be enjoyed.

Isabel’s Rich Chocolate Birthday Cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar – 1 cup white and 1 cup brown

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 Cocoa (sometimes 3/4 depends on how chocolatey you want it)

1 cup Oil

1 cup sour milk (sour the milk with 1 tsp lemon juice or 1 tsp vinegar)

2 well-beaten eggs

1-1.5 cups boiling water

1 Tbsp Vanilla

Note: If you want to jazz this up and make it different then add some chipotle. I suggest about 1/2 teaspoon will give you that hint/slight kick to change things up. We do this a lot and everyone loves it. Also, this cake can easily be made into cupcakes (normal size) or mini chipotle cupcakes are divine. I learned this from one of my food mentors, Chef Andre Carthen.


Mix all dry ingredients very well. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add oil, sour milk, eggs, vanilla and boiling water. Mix smoothly, folding all the dry ingredients into the wet. Do it with love and attention, not rushed and hurried. Enjoy the experience and add some thought to the person or persons you are making this for.

Bake at 350 degrees (conversion 175) for 1/2 hour – 40 mins. Check regularly and use a skewer to test centre for doneness.

Note: I like to double this cake and make a four layer cake.

Cream Cheese Icing:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

4 Tbsp milk

4 cups icing sugar

1/4 cup softened butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon


Whack all of this in a bowl and mix. I use a hand beater. Mix until smooth and silky and put on a cooled cake. I like to put some icing on the cake stand to keep everything in place. Then, layer and put icing between each layer. I’m generous with the icing and there is usually a lot left on the plate because it’s so rich but just go for it. It’s seriously good and it’s only made a few times a year :). Remember: if you’ve doubled the cake recipe then double the icing recipe too.

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